Arminian Today

A Jesus-Centered Arminian Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Pelagianism

Arminianism and Free Will

Arminius is often said to be the theologian of freedom.  One Calvinist theologian said that Arminius was “anthropocentric” in that he placed humanity at the center of his theology and not God.  To this day, Calvinist theologians continue to assert that Arminius and Arminianism is all about human freedom.  Libertarian free will is said a chief focus of Arminian theology.

And yet is this fair?  Is Arminianism focused on free will and humans as its center?

The fact is that those who say that Arminius was first and foremost about human freedom must prove this from his writings.  This cannot be done.  Arminius does not elevate human freedom above God’s sovereignty nor does he ascribe to salvation the basis being free will.  Arminius is clear in his writings that the will of man is free indeed but bound by sin (Romans 8:6-7).  The will of mankind is darkened by our sinfulness.  The will of man, like Jonathan Edwards later, was free but free to sin.  Man could do nothing with their free will to earn salvation.

Arminius was clear that we should uphold free will for three main reasons.  First, sin must be ascribed to free will.  While God can certainly use man’s free will sinful acts for His glory (Genesis 50:20; Acts 2:23-24), the act of sin must be free and not from God lest God be made the author of sin itself which Scripture deplores (James 1:13-15). God is simply too holy to sin (Exodus 15:11; Habakkuk 1:13).  If mankind does not have free will, sin must come from outside of them and that would be from the Creator Himself and Arminius simply would not affirm this.

Secondly, Arminius defended free will in regard to grace.  It was here that Calvinists often attacked Arminius as being Pelagian.  For salvation to be truly gracious and a gift from God (Romans 6:23) then it must be maintained that mankind receives this grace by their own free will albeit by the ministry of the Spirit.  To deny freedom in the work of grace is to make grace not truly grace.  How can one ascribe salvation as a work of grace if in fact man has no choice but to succumb to the irresistible drawing power of God?  Calvinists will insist that this is truly grace when dead sinners are regenerated to believe the gospel but salvation as a gift from God (John 3:16) is not a gift if the person offered the gift has nothing to say about receiving the gift.  Salvation as gracious is gracious in Arminianism since the will of man is freed by the Spirit to believe and receive the gift (John 1:12-13; Romans 11:5-6).

Finally, Arminius affirmed human freedom because it upholds the relationship between God and man as a true relationship.  God is not forcing His will upon people as a Master and they as robotic slaves.  Instead, God is loving, gracious, and reaching out to lost humanity through His Son and through His Word to bring them into a free and loving relationship with Himself.  The consistent theme of the Old Testament is God having relationships with people (and later the nation of Israel) through human freedom.  God allows the free will decisions of Abraham, David, and others to build His relationship with them.  No doubt God is sovereign in His choosing but He continues to allow a man like Abraham or Moses to even sin against Him in the process but nonetheless uses the men and their free will for His glory.  This does not end in the New Testament.  The coming of the Messiah is God still reaching out to humanity.  Yes our will is bent and wicked.  Yes we are sinners but God is consistently holy and pure yet He reaches out to the lost though His Son (Luke 19:10; 1 Timothy 1:15).  God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself (2 Corinthians 5:18-19).

The facts are that Arminius is not putting man at the center of his theology nor even free will.  Instead, Arminius affirmed the grace of God as central to his theology.  We are saved by grace and kept by grace.  Pelagianism places the beginning of faith in man but Arminius places salvation as an act of God’s first grace.  It is God who initiates salvation first in the garden of Eden (Genesis 3:15) and ultimately in His Son (John 1:17-18).  The beginning of salvation is not in man.  The beginning of salvation, according to Arminius, is God and His grace.

For more on this I highly recommend the book, Jacob Arminius: Theologian of Grace by Keith Stanglin and Thomas McCall.

Evangelism and the Evangelist’s Cry

What is astounding to me is to listen to various evangelistic preachers on the Internet.  You can listen to an Arminian, Calvinist, or even a Pelagian evangelist and they will all sound the same.  All three will cry out, “Repent of your sins.  Turn to God through faith and repentance in Christ Jesus.  Trust Him alone to be saved.”  All three will use these words when preaching to the lost.  All three groups agree that Jesus alone saves and that He is the only way to be saved (John 14:6).  All three agree that faith and repentance are necessary for eternal life.  All three agree that the Spirit of God must work on the sinner to draw them to salvation.

No doubt there is much difference between the three especially between the Calvinist and the Pelagian.  The Pelagian would agree with the Arminian that humans have free will though Arminians differ in that we teach that while the will is free, it is free to sin.  To come to faith in Christ, the Spirit of God must woo the sinner and draw the sinner (John 6:44; Acts 16:14-15).  Arminians, such as myself, deny that we can just come to Christ in our own free will powers.  The Spirit of God must be at work and He works through the gospel to draw sinners to salvation (Mark 16:15-16; Romans 10:14-17; 1 Corinthians 1:21.

The Calvinist evangelist, while crying out for the lost to repent, likewise agrees with the Arminian that the lost can only come as the Spirit of God works.  Both the Arminian and the Calvinist believe that salvation is accomplished by the grace of God who draws the sinner to Himself by the gospel.  Both affirm that faith and repentance will come forth by grace.  The key difference would be whether this salvation is conditional or unconditional.  The Calvinist evangelist will tell the lost to repent but he knows that the lost will not repent unless they are elect.  The Arminian would preach justification by faith alone and would call the sinner to repent.  This repentance would come forth by the sinner’s will that is freed to either believe or reject the gospel.  God does not force the sinner to repent but He allows the sinner to repent out of his will that has been freed to hear the gospel and be saved.  Even the Calvinist evangelist would acknowledge that people who believe the gospel do so on their own free will.  The Calvinist would say the sinner was “made willing” through the special inward call that goes out to the elect.  The Arminian would say that the Spirit of God opens the eyes of the sinner and allows them to repent and place their saving faith in Christ and thus becomes the elect of God although God foreknow (1 Peter 1:2).

My point all here is not to ramble.  I simply wanted to point out that the gospel message of these three will often sound the same.  Repent.  Faith.  Trust in Christ alone.  Turn from your wickedness.  All these three groups would preach this.  The difference would be the results.  If a sinner repents, the Calvinist evangelist would say that this was the sovereign work of grace.  The Arminian would agree but note that the sinner did believe and was saved.  The Pelagian would say that through the exercise of the will, the sinner was saved by grace through faith.

Interesting.  We are different but oddly sound the same.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

04/23/2013 at 10:07 AM

Canons Against Pelagianism

Can. 1 “If any man says that Adam, the first man, was created mortal, so that whether he sinned or not he would have died, not as the wages of sin, but through the necessity of nature, let him be anathema.”

Can. 2 “If any man says that new-born children need not be baptized, or that they should indeed be baptized for the remission of sins, but that they have in them no original sin inherited from Adam which must be washed away in the bath of regeneration, so that in their ease the formula of baptism ‘for the remission of sins’ must not be taken literally, but figuratively, let him be anathema; because, according to Romans 5:12, the sin of Adam (in quo omnes peccaverunt) has passed upon all.”

Can. 3.1 “If any man says that in the kingdom of heaven or elsewhere there is a certain middle place, where children who die unbaptized live in bliss (beate vivant), whereas without baptism they cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven, that is, into eternal life, let him be anathema.” [The authenticity of this canon has been brought into question, though there is some reason to believe that it was part of the original canon listing. In some manuscripts Canon 3.2, listed below, is listed here.]

Can. 3.2 “If any man says that the grace of God, by which man is justified through Jesus Christ, is only effectual for the forgiveness of sins already committed, but is of no avail for avoiding sin in the future, let him be anathema.”

Can. 4 “If any man says that this grace only helps not to sin, in so far that by it we obtain a better insight into the Divine commands, and learn what we should desire and avoid, but does not also give the power gladly to do and to fulfill what we have seen to be good, let him be anathema.”

Can. 5 “If any man says that the grace of justification was given us in order that we might the more easily fulfill that which we are bound to do by the power of free will, so that we could, even without grace, only not so easily, fulfill the Divine commands, let him be anathema.”

Can. 6 “If any man understands the words of the Apostle: ‘If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us,’ to mean that we must acknowledge ourselves to be sinners only out of humility, not because we are really such, let him be anathema.”

Can. 7 “If any man says that the saints pronounce the words of the Lord’s Prayer, ‘forgive us our trespasses,’ not for themselves, because for them this petition is unnecessary, but for others, and that therefore it is, ‘forgive us,’ not ‘me,’ let him be anathema.”

Can. 8 “If any man says that the saints only pronounce these words, ‘forgive us our trespasses,’ out of humility, not in their literal meaning, let him be anathema.”

Can. 9 “It has already been ordered by a former plenary Council, that those communities which became Catholic before the Imperial laws against the Donatists were issued by Honorius, are to remain in the dioceses of those bishops through whom they became Catholic; but that if they entered into communion with the Church after the publication of those laws, they shall be made over to that diocese to which they, while they were still Donatists, belonged (de jure). But as many disputes have arisen and do arise among the bishops from this cause, it is now decided that if in any place a Donatist and a Catholic community have existed side by side, and belonged to different dioceses, both shall be made over to the diocese to which the Catholic section belonged, whether the conversion of the Donatists took place before or after the publication of those Imperial decrees.”

Can. 10 “If the Donatist bishop has himself become Catholic, the two bishops (he and the Catholic one) shall divide equally between them the two communities now united, so that one portion of the towns shall belong to one, and the other to the other bishop. The bishop who has been longest in office shall make the division, but the other shall have the choice. If there is only one township of this description, then it shall belong to whichever See is nearest to it; but if there are two equally near, the people shall decide it by the majority of votes. If the votes are equal, the elder bishop has the preference. If, however,
the towns to which both parties belonged are of unequal number, so that they cannot be equally divided, the remaining one shall be dealt with as was prescribed above, in the preceding canon, with regard to a single town.”

Can. 11 “If, after the publication of this edict, a bishop has brought back a place to Catholic unity, and has held undisputed jurisdiction over it for three years, it may not be taken away from him. But if a Donatist bishop is converted, no disadvantage shall accrue to him from this arrangement, but for three years after his conversion he has the right of demanding back those places which belonged to his See.”

Can. 12 “If a bishop seeks to get into his power a diocese to which he thinks he has a claim, not through an episcopal decision, but by other means, and is opposed by another, he thereby forfeits his claim.”

Can. 13 “If a bishop takes no pains to win over to Catholic unity those places which belong to his jurisdiction, he shall be exhorted to do so by the neighboring bishops. If he does not do so within six months from this warning, they shall belong to the bishop who wins them to the Church…In disputed cases, arbiters shall be chosen by the primate or by the parties themselves.”

Can. 14 “There can be no further appeal from judges who have been unanimously elected.”

Can. 15 “If the bishop of a mother-diocese shows no zeal against the heretics, he shall be warned by the neighboring bishops; and if in six months from that time he does not bring back the heretics, although those deputed to carry out the Imperial decree of union have been in his province, he shall be deprived of communion until he does so.”

Can. 16 “If, however, he falsely asserts that he has brought back the heretics into communion, when this is not true, he forfeits his See.”

Can. 17 “If priests, deacons, and inferior clerics complain of a sentence of their own bishop, they shall, with the consent of their bishop, have recourse to the neighboring bishops, who shall settle the dispute. If they desire to make a further appeal, it must only be to their primates or to African Councils. But whoever appeals to a court on the other side of the sea (Rome), may not again be received into communion by any one in Africa.”

Can. 18 “If a virgin is in danger of losing her virginity, because a great man demands her in marriage, or some one desires to violate her, or because she fears to die before receiving the veil, and the bishop, at the desire of her parents, gives her the veil before she has reached the age of twenty-five, the synodal decision with regard to this age shall not hinder him.”

Can. 19 “In order that all the bishops present at the Council should not be detained too long, it was decided that the General Council should make choice of three persons invested with full powers from each province. From the province of Carthage were chosen Vincent, Fortunatian, and Clarus; from Numidia, Alypius, Augustine, and Restitutus; from the Byzacene province, besides the saintly old man, the Primate Donatian, the Bishops Cresconius, Jocundus, and Aemilianus; from Mauretania Sitifensis, Severian, Asiaticus, and Donatus; from the province of Tripoli, as usual only one, Plautius. These, with the senex, namely, the Primate Aurelius, shall decide everything. The Synod also prayed that Aurelius would sign all the documents to be published.”

Written by The Seeking Disciple

10/22/2011 at 11:43 PM

Posted in Pelagianism

Tagged with , ,

%d bloggers like this: